Thursday, August 15, 2013

a different garden

I wanted to throw out a few paragraphs about gardening today. About mixing flowers with vegetables in the dirt patch you have to work with. About a set of community gardens I visited this afternoon (Troy Gardens, for those who live in Madison and may know the place), thanks to an invitation from a friend who lives there...

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But I ran out of time. Completely, totally out of time.  So much did I run short on time today that Ed went to our local Thursday farmers market without me and, too, we had to postpone our game of tennis.

I am one busy person this week.

But I do have time for this quick thought: the home I visited, the one at Troy Gardens, used to be the home of another friend and I find this so very interesting -- to think about how these different lives and histories have come to inhabit this same space and in many ways, each regards it as her own.

It reminds me of the home where my girls grew up: I pass by that way every once in a while and I pause on Rosie, gawking, yes, unabashedly,  admiring changes and improvements, thinking about the history that's being created there, in those rooms where my girls grew up. This new history is so different from our own, though never less important or less fascinating in its own set of details.

I'll leave you with just one insignificant photo of a garden plot at Troy community gardens. Because it shows off what you can do in a very wee bit of space.

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As for life back at the farmhouse? Well, it's still cool in the mornings, but if I bundle up in a thick sweatshirt, we can eat breakfast on the porch (Ed, of course, can make do with just a t-shirt)...

And that's a good thing.

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(Note the peaches: it's raining peaches now at the farmette.)

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Oh, and let me always give a grateful nod here to farmette flowers.

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it's complicated

If I had a goal in this blog it would be to not ever imply that I know what the better alternative is out there. That I have it figured out. That someone should profit from my experiences or writings. Ed and I may not have a lot in common, but we share this belief -- that people need to figure out life for themselves. Sure -- deliberate hurt of another, of property, of anything -- can't be tolerated. Everything else is far far too complicated and does not lend itself to my judgment. Good friends, good parents, good people, good neighbors do not criticize the choices others make.

This is very much on my mind today, even as the day starts so gently -- without deep thoughts or hefty deliberations. I wake early, yes, because of some combination of Isis and Ed and I look out to see a slight mist. It had been a while since I'd taken Rosie out for an early spin. Well then, let me do it on this morning.

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There's always something lovely to discover if you go out within minutes of a sunrise.

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It is cold though. Not the kind of morning you expect on an August day. Is it a hint that I should think more about the next season?

Breakfast again is in the sun-room. The porch at 55 degrees is a tad too chilly for a leisurely morning meal.


I go to yoga. On Rosie. And on the way back, just before I pull into our driveway, I see that the landowner of the fields across the road from us is there, talking to someone -- they're both walking the land that farmer Lee and her extended family members plant with vegetables, fruits and flowers.

I turn Rosie onto the dirt road that crosses these fields. I pull up to the two men and after the usual greetings I ask -- is it true what farmer Lee told me? Are you really not letting her come back to plant these fields next year?

We know the landowner -- he's a really good guy. He cares deeply about his family and he cares deeply about stewardship of his land. He pauses now, sighs heavily and tells me -- yes; I told them they can't do this anymore. It was such a tough thing to say. Several of them have invested in these fields, planting strawberries for the long haul. For all of them, market farming is their livelihood.

So why? -- I ask.

Erosion, he tells me. They're destroying the land. The fine tilling -- it creates run off. The soil is being washed away. I have ruts here like you wouldn't believe. It's all flowing to the marshlands in the back. I have a guy here from Dane County assessing the damage -- he waves his hand to the other person out in the fields. We need to use this land in better ways.

So what will you do now? The obvious question.

The pig farmer from down there?  -- he waves his hand toward the east. He knows how to farm land in ways that will keep it from eroding. He'll lease it for corn.

And this is where I say nothing. Because it's so complicated, isn't it? We are reduced to monolithic crop farming. We grow fields of corn that scare the bees away and then we wonder about how our fruit trees will be pollinated. Where will the bees that sit in the flowers of Farmer Lee's fields go?

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And will our markets miss the produce that these farmers have been supplying for years now?

When Ed and I review this conversation back at the farmhouse, we talk about how difficult it is to communicate with the farmers who do not speak our language. How we don't get why, for example, they eagerly ask us for more land, even as they let some of the already plowed field on the farmette land grow weeds.

Ed steps out to chat with the guys out across the road. He comes back after a while and brings with him the Dane County Soil and Water Conservationist. The three of us walk to the north of the farmette, where Lee's sister has been working the land.

You've got erosion  -- he tells us, shaking his head. We talk about ways of countering it. We'll try to work with our farmers. It's a small strip. There are things we, they can do. In the meanwhile, our Soil and Water guy walks through the planted fields and picks up an onion -- why aren't they harvesting these yet? He shakes his head.

I cannot answer that. But I take the onion he plucked out of the dirt and use it to make chili tonight.


Oh, let me not forget: my summer log of flowers from the farmette:

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